Tyler Jones is making his way to the IWAS Games this summer to represent Team USA.
Being active and playing sports has always been important for 15-year-old Tyler Jones. At the age of nine, Jones got involved in track and he’s been competing ever since. Before Jones was able to understand the idea of sports and competition, tragedy struck him and his family. His whole family’s life had changed not too long after he was born.
At the young age of two, Jones was being a normal toddler, playing around in the sprinklers, when he tripped and bruised his foot. About one week later, his mother noticed a big knot on his foot while he was napping. As a new mom, she had a feeling that something was wrong and took him to the pediatrician who, luckily, was also new to motherhood and took his case very seriously. An x-ray showed an odd curve in his bone. Later, an MRI revealed a tumor growing right on his foot. Jones was diagnosed with fibrosarcoma, a rare bone cancer that affects about one in two million people. His near future was full of chemotherapy and hospital visits. His family was scared of what could come, but there was an answer that could help Jones live a cancer free life.
“After some inconclusive tests and lack of response to chemotherapy, it was clear that amputation was the best plan of action,” his mother, April Jones says. “He lost his leg, and of course considering what that would mean for him potentially was very scary, but losing a leg is nothing compared to losing your child. We considered ourselves quite lucky.”
The cancer resulted in a right leg below the knee amputation. For Tyler, although he was only two-years-old, he still has memories of experiencing cancer.
“I remember a lot of things from the chemo treatment, the shots, the fellow patients and even playing video games with my dad and eating ice cream,” Tyler says. “I think I remember these things not because it can be traumatic for a little boy, but because these are the key moments when I fought to battle against cancer instead of giving up.”
This unexpected, traumatic time took a major toll on their lives, but didn’t stop them from living as happily as they could. Tyler’s family only grew from this experience. After his amputation, Tyler grew up as a happy, healthy boy who is now representing Team USA at the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports (IWAS) Youth World Games in Ireland this summer.
“Team USA, to me, means being the best of the best,” Tyler says. “To represent our great country is more than a blessing. For most people, this isn’t even a possibility. I’m making my dreams a reality. To represent our country means I must be brave, strong and an overcomer because that’s the representation of the USA. I want to make everyone proud and when I come back home I want to be able to say that I made it big. Not only for myself but for everyone who thought I had a shot and pushed me to become a better athlete.”
To compete at an international level, Tyler believes that you must be very strong mentally. You must be able to handle stress and be able to carry the weight of the title of representing your country. Physically, he believes you must be in the best shape you can be and take care of your body the right way. As the IWAS Games approach, Tyler will continue to train with his high school track team and also with his Paralympics club coach, Jimmy Cuevas. On top of running and endurance, Tyler lifts weights to stay strong.
In addition to competing as a top athlete, Tyler is a hardworking student. Sports are very important to him, but so is maintaining a good grade point average. Being a student athlete can be tough for some, and Tyler has had some challenges along the way.
“Being a student is hard enough but being an athlete as well can definitely be challenging,” he says. “Keeping good grades is a big thing for me but wanting to achieve my dreams is also very important to me.
On top of track and field, Tyler also participates in wheelchair basketball, wrestling and powerlifting. Throughout his life, sports have been one constant he can always count on.
“Sports to me is more than just an activity,” Tyler says. “Playing sports and being active in general is my escape from the real world. If I’m having a bad day I just go to practice and get a good work out in and it boosts my mood and self-esteem significantly. Not to mention it makes me feel healthy and improves the way I not only see myself but also how I approach situations mentally as well.”
Tyler’s parents have played a huge role in his life. He’s had some tough times when it comes to sports and his parents are always there to pick him back up. His competitiveness and his drive to win comes from his dad.
“My mom and dad embody the kind of person I want to be. Without them I don’t think I would be anywhere near where I am today,” he says.
Throughout his life, Tyler has been introduced to a handful of sports that have helped shape who he is today. As an athlete, Tyler continues to grow and only strives for the best. His advice to young kids with an injury or disability is “don’t be shy, put yourself out there as much as possible. Be open to try new things and meet new people and athletes who have the same interests and similar disabilities. [sports] can help you find yourself. It can make you see parts of yourself you never knew were there. To be able to push through any pain and negativity is the best feeling as an athlete, but that’s also everyday life for a person with a disability.”